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Tons of paper files to be digitised in Council project

PropertyFiles 300 x 2The paper chase to retrieve property files from Napier City Council’s planning department will soon be a thing of the past.

NCC have taken the first 90 files (from a total of more than 29,000) from their current home at the Council’s CBD offices to be digitally scanned and quality assessed, by a New Zealand firm with two decades of expertise in the area.

Dubbed Project Papercut, Council (in conjunction with Desktop Imaging in Wellington) will digitise and classify every property file held on the premises – a total of around 4.8 million pages of information – in a mammoth process that is likely to take around 18 months.

In the future, property files will be easily searchable and viewable using self-service kiosks at Council’s reception or by requesting a downloadable link. Eventually, says Napier City Council Manager Information Services Duncan Barr, customers will be searching for their files online from their home or office, without the need to visit Council at all.

“This project ensures that the data we hold in our 29,000 files is preserved, archived, kept safe and classified to ensure it is fully searchable.  Every single file, from the earliest file we have dated 1924, will be colour-scanned and saved,” he says. “Paper files carry with them a degree of risk – if we had a fire, or an earthquake, the information could be lost. Paper erodes over time and files become harder to read. And as we frequently discover when accessing the files in their current state, there’s the risk of human error too – people misfiling information, or simply losing important paperwork.”

Mr Barr says that the files will be scanned alphabetically according to their street address, with the first 90 “A” files having been removed from the premises last month. A strict quality assurance process will be undertaken on those 90 files before the remaining files are trucked to Wellington for scanning, in batches. “We’re entering the pilot stage of the project, checking scanning quality and accurate categorisation. A highly beneficial side-effect of this process is that as each file is handled, any misfiled information can be refiled into its proper spot.”

As noted in the Long Term Plan 2015-2025 public expectation around access to 24/7 electronic data is growing – including online access to electronic property files. A total of $655,000 was set aside in the LTP for the project although early estimates are that it is likely to cost $1m. “We’re prepared for the additional cost, which is mostly due to the extent of the classification we’ve requested. We aim to do it once, do it right, and Desktop Imaging certainly have a brilliant track record in this regard.” The additional cost will be requested through the Long Term Plan 2018-2028.

Property files will still be available to the public on a 48-hour turnaround. Larger commercial files may take up to 72 hours during busy times. To access property files, there is a form located at http://www.napier.govt.nz/services/properties-and-rates/property-files/ which will trigger a prompt file-scanning process with the scanned file/s then emailed to the requester via a downloadable link. Or, if the requestor prefers more personalised service, information can be viewed online at one of Council’s four viewing stations at 231 Hastings Street, Napier.

PROJECT PAPERCUT IN NUMBERS
4.8 million – the approximate number of pages to be scanned during Project Papercut
579 – the number of trees that gave their lives for our property files to exist
14,500 - the number of rugby field the paper in our property files would cover if laid flat
24 tons – how much the paper files weigh (imagine a blue whale with a hippo on its back)

3 July 2017

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